UPDATED: ALL ABOUT THE ARTS – BEST OF 2021

Throughout 2021 we received more than 300 CD’s and DVD’s for reviewing. There were over 12,000 visitors to our blog ALL ABOUT THE ARTS, coming from 105 countries: from Albania to Zimbabwe, Their response to those reviews was unfailingly positive, and it helped us choose the best CD’s, DVD’s and on-line performances in two categories: vocal music and instrumental music.

VOCAL MUSIC

The Garsington Opera Der Rosenkavalier is set in a mid-century Vienna that could as easily be any major city where Christian Dior’s fashions ruled. The concept works and is enthusiastically embraced by director Bruno Ravella, who works wonders with his four principals and with a large cast of your artists and seasoned comprimarios. Jordan de Souza’s mastery of the score is remarkable. Swedish soprano Miah Persson stands out as a superb Marschallin. She sings as gloriously as any Marschallin in memory, and is in excellent company, with Polish mezzo-soprano Hannah Hipp an exciting, boyish Octavian, American soprano Madison Leonard an enchanting Sophie, and Derrick Ballard a bass-baritone who sings rather than barks Baron Ochs’ notes and is very funny to boot.

Dedicated to the victims of Covid 19 in Italy and to all the volunteers who tended to their needs, and given in a socially distanced setting with its participating artists and audience, the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini and the chorus of Parma’s Teatro Regio led by Roberto Abbado delivered a powerhouse performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1874 Manzoni Requiem on the Dynamic label.

It is rare to find these days a great voice and a great artist in the person of the same singer: Anita Rachvelishvili is that rare individual. The SONY CLASSICAL INTERNATIONAL recording of Russian art songs is perfectly engineered and elegantly produced, providing yet another calling card to one of the great mezzo-sopranos of today.

In the Bridge Records CD Visca l’amor, Mexican-American tenor Isai Jess Muñoz is featured in a recital of Catalan songs by Toldrà and Mompou, among others. Muñoz, a singing artist of the highest caliber, bestows his expressive voice, sensitive musicianship, and refined way with words on an unjustly ignored segment of the art song literature, with pianist Oksana Glouchko the ideal partner in this one-of-a-kind recital.

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

Every time I hear Stewart Goodyear play I am reminded of what an extraordinary pianist he is. That just happened when I received a copy of his CD Phoenix from the enterprising label Bright Shiny Things. Flawlesly engineered, mixed, and mastered by Daniel Shores, elegantly produced by Dan Mercurio and Louis Levitt, and nicely packaged and designed by Marian C. Holmes and Julia-Buz, the CD was recorded back in February of this year and just released. It features an intriguing selection of contemporary music by Jennifer HigdonAnthony Davis, and Stewart Goodyear himself.

The extraordinary Korean-American cellist Jonah Kim opens up new vistas onto music by Zoltán Kodály, Mark Abel and Edvard Grieg in the recently-recorded Delos CD APPROACHING AUTUMN, in which he dazzles with his fierce playing and technical prowess, partnered by the excellent pianist Robert Koenig.

In his album ENTRE DOS ALMAS for Outhere Music Stefano Maiorana, an immensely accomplished Renaissance and Baroque specialist brings solid technique, keen musicality and intense temperament to the guitar music of Santiago de Murcia and Arcangelo Corelli: two kindred souls enriching one another by way of Maiorana’s exquisite artistry.NEW MUSIC

In Supertrain Records’ AN AMERICAN MOSAIC Simone Dinnerstein gives Richard Danielpour’s delicate, economical of means, sometimes restless, most often tranquil music for the piano a noble, straightforward, sensitive reading that renders this treasure of an album of new music an essential one.

Unfinished Earth by Douglas Knehans depicts with organized sound much of what is randomly disorganized in nature and in human beings, Knehans’ Tempest offers music at times jittery, at others elegiac, elegantly played by flutist Gareth Davies, as soloist with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra helmed by Mikel Toms, in a performance as brilliant as Knehans’ music itself.

Orlando Jacinto García’s music spins continuously while minute changes of texture and tone happen imperceptibly in a METIER release to which one must listen attentively, the rewards then to be derived being immense. The Amernet Quartet plays this music with unflagging discipline and sensitivity. One hopes that METIER will continue to record the fascinating music of this pioneering artist.

Gemma Peacocke’s Amygdala in the BRIGHT SHINY THINGS’ CD LAVENA in your hands is one of several compositions featuring cellist Lavena Johanson performing works byJesse Montgomery, Carolyn Shaw, Ted Hearne, Bryce Dessner and Judah Adashi ina fascinating sampler of new music played by a gifted musician.

Yalil Guerra’s Sonata No. 1, Siglo XXI reveals a fertile musical mind in a work in search of a tonal and harmonic center set upon by uncertainty and emotional upheavals, giving expression in highly rhythmic sections that threaten to vanquish frequent moments of exquisite lyricism. The recording with the indispensable pianist Marcos Madrigal is available on several platforms, including You Tube.

Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS

2 thoughts on “UPDATED: ALL ABOUT THE ARTS – BEST OF 2021

  1. Dear Rafael, Thanks so much for your praise of Jonah Kim, his album, and for the kind words about my piece Approaching Autumn when the record was released. Honored that you found it worthy of your year’s-end picks.

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